Writings and observations

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Fifty years ago this summer, a group of very conservative Idaho Republicans put into motion a series of events destined to turn the direction of the Idaho Republican far to the right. It began at the 1963 state Republican convention with the election Gwen Barnett as Idaho’s Republican national committeewoman. At the time she was the youngest member of the national committee.

The following year the party nominated Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater to be its presidential standard bearer. It was a conservative revolution for the party and one that had disastrous consequences when Goldwater lost in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson.

Barnett had become a close ally of the Goldwater forces. Her friend Dean Burch, a former member of the Goldwater Senate staff, had been elected Republican national chairman. She was also close to such rising conservative stars as John Tower, who had become the first Republican elected to the senate from Texas since Reconstruction.

Following Goldwater’s defeat, Idaho Governor Robert Smylie, as chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association and a leading party moderate, led efforts to purge the party of Burch and others. Barnett responded by embarking on a personal crusade to purge Smylie from the party by defeating him when he ran for re-election in 1966. Her candidate became Don Samuelson, a three-term state senator from Sandpoint. Samuelson was a staunch conservative who, while serving a generally lackluster single term as Governor, helped to solidify the conservative element of the state party into the party’ driving force. He also helped to ensure that the Democrats, led by Cecil Andrus, would capture the governorship in 1970 for the first time in a quarter century.

Now fast forward fifty years to the 2013 legislative session. The defeat on the Senate floor of the public school appropriations bill on an 18-17 vote has been viewed by some legislative observers as being unprecedented. Not true. The last time this happened was in 1992, and it happened several times in the 1980s. The real story is not the actual defeat of the bill, but the driving forces behind the defeat.

In recent years the Senate has always been considered the moderate check against the more conservative forces in the House. But as of 2013, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Actually, the swing had begun in 2010 when then Senator Joe Stegner, a GOP moderate, was defeated in his effort to be re-elected Republican assistant majority leader by conservative Senator Chuck Winder.

In 2012, core members of the most conservative block in the House decided to give up their seats and successfully run for the Senate. The new batch of Senate conservatives attempted to unseat long-time Senator Majority Leader Bart Davis. While their candidate, Dean Mortimer, narrowly failed, it did establish the conservative block as a force to be reckoned with.

They finally had their opportunity with the public school appropriation. The stated reason for their opposition was that the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee had overstepped its authority by placing a number of pieces of legislative intent language on the public school appropriation. They insisted that the committee was making policy that should more appropriately be initiated by the Senate and House Education Committees. This had been long-standing practice from JFAC and, while there have been ongoing complaints about it over the years, the Legislature has yet to come up with any procedures which would give the various standing committees greater input into the appropriations process without slowing it down to a standstill.

So, rather than suggesting how the process might be improved, while still allowing the Legislature to complete its business in a timely manner, the new conservative block in the Senate decided to simply vote down the public school appropriations bill and have the process go back to square one. The effort succeeded. The bill was defeated on a vote of 18-17, with 18 Republicans voting against the bill and 10 Republicans, plus all 7 Democrats voting for it.

Republicans voting for the bill included the Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Majority Leader Bart Davis, JFAC co-chair Dean Cameron and JFAC co-vice chair Shawn Keough. All are relatively moderate compared to the block who voted against the bill.

Looking back to 1963, this action is somewhat akin to the successful efforts of GOP conservatives to elect Gwen Barnett to the GOP national committee. In 1963, Robert Smylie continued to be the governor who espoused moderate causes. But Barnett’s election was a loud warning shot over the Smylie’s bow. The same may be true with the defeat of the public school appropriation in 2013.

If history repeats itself, there just may be some Democrats who are quietly celebrating the shift in the philosophical control of the Senate. The question now is, what Republican is going to play the role of Don Samuelson in 2014? And what Democrat will play the role of Cecil Andrus in 2018? In 2018 it will have been 24 years since the Democrats last occupied the governor’s office. Just like it was in 1970 when Andrus defeated Samuelson.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Idaho Peterson

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Idaho’s territorial sesquicentennial celebration will present many opportunities to reflect on our state’s history. At the kick-off ceremony on Boise’s capitol steps on March 4 there was a considerable focus on the role of Abraham Lincoln in Idaho’s territorial history. Considering that he was president when Idaho Territory was created and that he appointed all of our initial territorial officials, the attention paid to him is appropriate.

But was he the most important president with respect to Idaho? There are several presidents who, for varying reasons, could be considered for that distinction. Lincoln is clearly one. Others might suggest Jefferson for his role in initiating the Louisiana Purchase and dispatching Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery. Another possibility is Benjamin Harrison, who signed the legislation creating the state of Idaho.

And then there is the interesting, but little known, role of Grover Cleveland. During Cleveland’s presidency legislation was approved by both the House and Senate to divide Idaho Territory, attaching northern Idaho to Washington and southern Idaho to Nevada. This legislation would have actually eliminated Idaho. But by the time the bill reached President Cleveland for his consideration, Congress had adjourned. He declined to sign it, which effectively vetoed it.

Even though each of these presidents played significant roles in the creation of Idaho, I would suggest that none of them deservers the title of Idaho’s most important president. Rather, I think that distinction should go to our country’s eleventh president, James Polk. If you aren’t familiar with him, consider yourself to be part of the majority. But without him there would not have been either the territory or state of Idaho.

James Polk was from Tennessee and a protégé of Andrew Jackson. His first elective office was to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he eventually was elected Speaker of the House. He also served as Governor of Tennessee. Elected president in 1844 as a dark horse candidate, he pledged to only serve a single term. Polk was a Democrat and the Democratic Party was badly divided, especially by the issue of slavery. The leadership of the party was also filled with
wannabe presidents, including Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, John C. Cahoun and others, all having individual agendas to help promote their own political interests. Polk had a difficult, but highly successful, four years, as president.

The highest item on Polk’s presidential agenda was territorial expansion. At the time, the western border of the U.S. was defined by the Louisiana Purchase. When Polk took office in 1845, the United States consisted of 1.7 million square miles of land.

Texas was annexed by the U.S. and became a state in late 1845.

The Oregon country was jointly occupied by the U.S. and Great Britain. Although Great Britain wanted title to the Columbia River, Polk stood firm on establishing the U.S. border at the 49th parallel and, in 1846 signed a treaty with Great Britain which turned all of the land south of the 49th parallel over to the U.S., creating Oregon Territory. From that territory would come the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and parts of the states of Montana and Wyoming.

Polk next turned his attention to areas of land that were part of Mexico. He was rebuffed by Mexico in an effort to purchase the lands and promptly began looking for an excuse to go to war with Mexico and simply take the lands away from them. He found his excuse when Mexican
troops crossed the Rio Grande into Texas and killed eleven U.S. soldiers. Declaring war on Mexico, the U.S. scored a series of military victories and in 1848 the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, adding territory that would become California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.

The total of Polk’s land acquisitions was 1.2 million square miles. Without those lands, the U.S. would have no Pacific coast and today’s western border states would be considerably smaller versions of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. And, most importantly for Idaho, there would be no Idaho. It was James Polk who made possible the later Idaho related actions of Lincoln, Harrison and Cleveland. That is why I think that he was the president of greatest importance to Idaho. But, aside from streets named after him in a handful of Idaho cities, Polk’s name is little known and uncelebrated in Idaho.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

There is no greater issue facing this country than that of bringing the federal budget under control. It is a bigger issue than dealing with international terrorism, drugs, global warming and, yes, even second amendment issues.

The federal budget and the need to eliminate the deficit is something that impacts virtually every American. Changes in federal tax laws, reductions in federal discretionary spending, including defense spending, changes in Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement program, are just a few of the issues facing Congress, the President and the entire nation.

The only thing certain about dealing with these issues is that no single person is likely to be pleased with the final solutions. But it is also important that the public is knowledgeable of the
extent of the problem and the reasons for solving it. And, perhaps most importantly, why the solutions to the problem, however unpopular, will probably be far better for the country as a whole than simply ignoring it.

Much of the time during the past few months I have been working with the McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho putting together a project to help educate Idahoans on issues relating to the federal budget. The end result is a symposium that will be held in Boise the evening of February 19 and televised statewide on Idaho Public Television’s World Channel.

The symposium brings together some of the nation’s leading experts and participants in seeking solutions to issues such a deficit reduction.

Senator Mike Crapo is a member of three major committees involved with these issues. The Senate committees on Finance, Budget and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He is also a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Reform, more commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho second congressional district is a member of both the House Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee.

Senator Alan Simpson from Wyoming has retired from the Senate but has remained active as the co-chairman of the Simpson-Bowles Commission which was appointed by the president to seek solutions to reducing the deficit. He is well known for his candor and wit, as well as for his knowledge of issues relating to deficit reduction.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has been a leading player on the Democratic side of the aisle. He serves on both the Budget and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committees.

Maya MacGuineas is president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan, non-profit national organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. The Committee is made up of some of the nation’s leading budget experts including many of the past chairs and directors of the Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Reserve Board.

It is a reflection on the significant leadership roles that Senator Crapo and Congressman Simpson are playing in dealing with the wide range of federal fiscal issues that these other panel members will be coming to Idaho to join them in this symposium. It is also an indication of the level of respect they each have among their colleagues from both parties.

This is an all-star cast. They will be convening in the auditorium of Idaho capitol building at 7:00 pm Pacific Time on February 19 for a two-hour discussion of federal fiscal issues and opportunities to respond to questions from a wide range of individuals from across the state.

You can participate by tuning in to Idaho Public Television’s World Channel and watching the symposium live. It will also be streamed live on their website. Later in the week, on Friday, February 22, following the weekly broadcast of Idaho Reports, Idaho Public Television will broadcast an abbreviated one-hour edition of the symposium.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Peterson

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on your re-election and inauguration to your second term as President of the United States. Our ability to have highly competitive elections followed by peaceful continuations or transitions of governmental administrations is perhaps the single most important defining characteristic of our great country.

I hope that you can also break the chain established by your two Democratic predecessors – Carter and Clinton — who will be most warmly remembered for what they did after leaving the White House, rather than what they accomplished while living there.

You had some strong accomplishments during your first term. Obama Care, which has been used as a pejorative term, will likely end up as a complimentary term. Presidents Roosevelt and Johnson would have been elated with the terms Roosevelt Security and Johnson Care for their two landmark programs. Likewise, the 2013 Detroit Auto Show has attracted major positive attention from both the industry and the public. The most talked about car has been the new
generation Chevy Corvette from a company that might not even exist without your support for the GM bail-out. And, of course, we can’t overlook the final destruction of that terrorist slimeball Osama ben Laden.

Second terms provide the opportunity for a president to establish the legacy of his administration. Unfortunately, too often it ends up being a negative legacy, such as Johnson’s Vietnam, Nixon’s Watergate, Carter’s Iranian hostage situation, Reagan’s gun sales to Iran, Clinton’s Lewinski affair and Bush-the-Younger’s middle east malaise. This is your opportunity to break that chain and leave a positive second term legacy.

Let me give you some advice on making your second term more successful. And don’t write it off just because it is coming from a guy in a state that only gave you 32% of the vote. A couple of Idahoans have been among the best advisors in your administration. Jim Messina, a 1988 graduate of Boise High School, managed your incredibly successful 2012 campaign. Mitt Romney and his supporters were convinced, right up until election night, that you were toast.
But Jim Messina orchestrated one of the best run and most successful presidential campaigns in history.

Likewise, the other half of your team, Vice President Joe Biden, selected Coeur d’Alene native Bruce Reed to be his chief of staff. Reed served as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor and, more recently, served as staff director of the Simpson-Bowles commission appointed by President Obama to seek solutions to the federal fiscal mess.

First of all, make some congressional friends. The solutions to most of our problems lie with the ability of you and Congress to forge compromises, but such compromises require that you have friends on both sides of the aisle. Harry Truman used to invite key congressional players to the White House to drink whiskey and play poker. LBJ invited congressional members down to the LBJ Ranch in Texas for barbecue and arm twisting. Maybe you could invite members of congress to the White House kitchen to brew and sample some of your homebrew.

You already have a ton of friends and supporters in the northeast. Turn some of your attention to the west, Not just the coastal states, but also to the interior. For example, while we don’t have hurricanes or many destructive tornadoes, climate change is causing growing problems here as well. A good signal that you have an interest in the west would be to announce you are cheering for the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

You did a good job of getting the Republicans to compromise on the issue of taxation. And it appears they are also going to cut you a temporary bit of slack on raising the debt ceiling. Now you need to look at how you might compromise on discretionary spending and entitlements. Don’t automatically assume that all of your traditional allies are providing you with the best
possible counsel. An example is AARP. I have been an AARP member for about fifteen years. They do a fine job of offering discounts for car rentals and hotel rooms. They also offer some fine insurance programs, which I participate in. But they have also shown that they can provide lousy self-serving counsel on legislative issues. An example is AARP’s support for the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which prohibits Medicare from negotiating bulk purchasing prices with drug companies. This is one of the reasons that U.S. made drugs are cheaper in Canada than in the U.S. The greatest generation knew what it was like to sacrifice. Now the baby boomers are going to have to do the same thing if we are going to solve our fiscal problems and see our economy strengthened.

And, finally, make a concerted effort during the next four years to reduce our tendency to meddle in the affairs of foreign countries. You need to help ensure that the United States makes its own foreign policy. Sometimes other countries make potentially disastrous foreign policy and military decisions while knowing that the United States will back them up, even if not in our country’s best interests. We were better served in a variety of ways when we had the military draft. In addition to saving money, it also caused our youth, parents and others to be more constantly concerned about foreign military interventions.

God speed to you as you begin your second term, Mr. President. Whether we voted for you or not, 315-million Americans are depending upon your leadership to guide us into a peaceful and prosperous future.

With best regards,

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peterson
Martin Peterson
From Idaho

When Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s million-dollar-a-year executive director, held his press conference on December 21 responding to the Connecticut school shootings, the national response was quick and largely negative. However, what was overlooked by both the
media and the public was the fact that in his response, LaPierre did a fine and concise — although entirely unintentional – job of demonstrating three of the major ills that are keeping this country from solving many, if not most, of the major problems it faces.

The first ill is to always blame someone else and ignore any contribution you may have made to creating a problem. We hear it day-in and day-out in the halls of Congress. Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicans. Never accept personal responsibility for a problem when you can point the finger at someone else. Assault weapons and large capacity clips didn’t create this problem, according to LaPierre. It’s video games, movies and lack of armed guards that are the problem.

The second ill is to identify a problem and then ask the federal government to pay for it. That is the mind-set that has helped lead us to the serious fiscal problems the federal government currently faces. The NRA offices in Washington must be in a soundproof bunker. Apparently LaPierre is unaware that Congress and the President are currently dealing with serious budget issues that will likely make it impossible for them to consider his proposal that the federal government fund armed guards at every school building in the United States. If he is really serious about obtaining the support of Congress and the President for his proposal, and he really thinks that those guards will eliminate school shootings, while protecting second amendment rights, he should consider recommending the means of paying for it.

Two privileges the government gives me that I enjoy are driving motor vehicles and fishing. I drive on roads that are largely funded by persons like me who use them, with fuel taxes and registration fees. The same with fishing. I buy an annual license and those fees are used to support the state’s fisheries program. If you don’t want to enjoy the privileges of driving or fishing, you don’t have to pay. The same could be true with the proposal to protect the rights of gun owners by using armed guards at schools.

Place a federal tax, similar to Idaho’s personal property tax, on every privately owned firearm in the U.S. The FBI estimates there are 200 million, so the annual amount of the tax would probably be quite low. Similarly, a nominal tax could be charged on all ammunition sold. Estimates are that around 10-billion rounds a year are sold in the U.S., so that tax would probably be quite low as well. But, if Mr. LaPierre is correct and the funding of these armed guards would deter future school shootings, then I’m sure gun owners and ammunition buyers would agree that it would be well worth the additional cost. And, like driving and fishing, if you don’t choose to own guns or buy ammunition, then you wouldn’t need to share in the burden.

The third ill is the Jimmy Swaggart syndrome, “do as I say and not as I do.” The NRA has built its power base by being among the staunchest of all constitutional defenders. They, more than anyone else, make it possible for every American to own an assault rifle, large capacity clips, and cop killer ammunition and they gladly take credit for that. But now we find that apparently their constitutional support only applies to the second amendment, and not the first. Rather than even remotely recognizing that there may be some blame for all of the unchecked shootings in this country on the shoulders of the most rabid defenders of the second amendment who believe in every American’s right to own an assault weapon, LaPierre says that it is those staunchest defenders of the first amendment, the media and entertainment industries, who are to blame for all of this.

I don’t disagree with him that the makers of violent video games and motion pictures need to share some of the blame for these shootings. Just as I think that the manufacturers and sellers of civilian assault weapons share some of the blame. But, were these first amendment defenders to steal a page from the NRA, their best defense would be to plaster the country with bumper stickers stating that “Video Games Don’t Kill People. People Kill People.”

We have a problem in this country and it’s too bad that the NRA leadership isn’t interested in making the kinds of compromise that are always essential in solving major problems. It would be good to have them play a productive role in developing realistic solutions, rather than the kind of claptrap mouthed by Mr. LaPierre. Until he’s ready to play a more reasonable role in the efforts to reduce the risk of classroom shootings, he needs to crawl back into his bunker and stay there.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

I recently moderated a forum for City Club of Boise featuring U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Tidwell grew up in Boise before his family moved to Spokane, where he graduated from high school. He took classes at both the University of Idaho and WSU and received a degree in range science from WSU.

At a time when federal funding is threatened, forest fires are on the increase, forest restoration needs are growing, and timber harvests on federal lands have declined, it is a challenging time to be the head of the Forest Service.

Idaho has a greater share of its land mass in national forests than any other state. 38% of Idaho is part of the national forest system. Of Idaho’s 20.4 million acres of national forest land, an estimated 15 million acres are overgrown and vulnerable to the risk of wildfires. Last summer’s fires burned 1.7 million acres of forest and rangeland. The Forest Service spends 42% of its budget on firefighting and nearly one-third of its employees are firefighters.

Tidwell says that in recent years the annual acreage burned by wildfires has increased dramatically and has burned in excess of 8 million acres six times since 2004 and could reach 12 to 15 million acres in the near future. In addition, 30,000 homes have been destroyed in the last ten years, including 3,000 this year. Fire seasons are also running 60-70 days longer than before, with the days over when snows came in September and ended the fire season. Causes for this dramatic increase include past forest management practices, insect infestations and climate change.

Tidwell says that the Forest Service in now making forest restoration one of its highest priorities. Forest restoration includes hazardous fuels reduction, protection and restoration of critical habitat, including riparian areas and watersheds. In areas where restoration has taken place, oncoming fires drop from the crowns and become more manageable.

As an example of the benefits of fuel reduction, Tidwell said that this year’s Mustang Complex Fire north of Salmon covered 340,000 acres and that the work done on a logging project in the area helped fire fighters keep the fire from engulfing U.S. 93, the primary highway route in that
part of the state.

Tidwell said that he uses Idaho as an example of how things can be done. He cited two major successful restoration efforts in Idaho: Selway-Middle Fork, Weiser- Little Salmon Headwaters. Using these as examples, he tells others around the country that “If we can do it in Idaho, we can do it anywhere.”

He said that the Forest Service is also working to increase timber cuts and expects an increase of 20% in the next two years. When asked about the long history of law suits by environmental groups attempting to block timber cuts, he said that it is much less of a problem today than
it was in the past. A major reason for this reduction in lawsuits is an increased emphasis on collaborative efforts such as the Clearwater Basin Collaborative. Nationally, the Forest Service is working on bringing together timber industry executive, environmental leaders, and state and
local officials to increase forest restoration and watershed improvements, as well as increasing timber harvests.

With respect to climate change, Tidwell says that we should prepare for more significant effects. One of the most obvious effects is the severity of infestations from mountain pine beetles. They are at the most severe level ever and increasing. The growing length of fire seasons is also an indicator of climate change. And in the future we should expect to see some timber species that are native to Idaho beginning to disappear from the Idaho landscape.

But the next chapter on the work of the Forest Service will likely be written by federal budge appropriators. As the range of options for reducing the deficit are weighed, significant reductions in discretionary spending are likely to come to the forefront and the Forest Service is viewed as a discretionary program. One of the leading conservative think tanks, the Cato Institute, suggests that Congress should eliminate federal funding for the Forest Service and allow the department to charge fair market value for timber cutting, recreational uses and other uses for Forest Service Land. Not something that would prove popular in the western U.S.

These are interesting times for the Forest Service.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

There has recently been a lot of talk about the group of Americans known as The One Percent. The term refers to the one percent of Americans who control something like forty percent of the nation’s wealth. Presumably, the wealthiest of these individuals, unless they inherited their wealth, are people who are intelligent, have a high work ethic and think strategically when making business decisions.

So, at a time when there has been so much talk about the overly long recovery from the last recession, where do these wealthy individuals invest their money? Following tips from their Fox News advisors, the smart investment was in Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

The talking heads on Fox said for months that this was a sure thing. As it turns out, as financial advisors, they were right up there with Bernie Madoff.

Take the billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. He made his billions off of people who bet and lost and when it came to making political donations, he proved no luckier than most of his customers. He spent $53 million on nine political races and had only one winner. The one winner was in the Texas Senate race where he actually supported two candidates.

Then there are the Koch brothers, Charles and David. They were reported to be prepared to donate something in the neighborhood of $400 million to a variety of tax exempt groups that are not subject to federal campaign finance disclosure. Their top priority was to support candidates who will weaken environmental regulations and stop the move away from coal to cleaner sources of energy. Presumably, that would have come with Republicans solidly in control of the House, Senate and White House. In the end, it was not one of their better investments.

One of the super PACs into which many of those wealthy one-percenters poured contributions was the one run by the former Bush political operative Karl Rove. Rove has been largely
viewed as one of the shrewdest and most effective political operatives of the current generation.

Not so in 2012. Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC spent $104 million of other people’s money in the general election and none of its candidates won. In the end, rather than declaring victory, all he could say was that without this funding support, the races wouldn’t have been nearly as close. Someone needs to remind him that close only counts in horseshoes.

Closer to home, there was Idaho’s own Frank VanderSloot. VanderSloot is the Idaho Falls based billionaire who founded Melaleuca, an Amway clone that sells nutritional supplements, cleaning supplies and personal care products. His 2012 election passion was Idaho education reform and Mitt Romney. He spent $1.3 million in supporting the ill-fated Luna laws and another $1 million on the Romney campaign.

So what is the take-home lesson from all of this? Just as with the stock market, there are no sure things in politics. But there are ways in which people could minimize their losses. One such way would be for the U.S. to adopt the British campaign model and limit campaigns to thirty days. In addition, the British government imposes what they call Purdah before elections. This is a period of about six weeks prior to elections during which the government is prohibited from making public release of any proposed new programs.

Unfortunately, there is little chance that such common-sense changes will be coming to U.S. elections any time soon. The billions spent on the 2012 elections didn’t simply disappear, as in the case of a bad stock purchase. The moneys went to a wide-range of election stakeholders who weren’t running for office. They include campaign advisors, media strategists, political advisors, newspapers, direct mail firms, robo telephone calling firms, radio and TV stations, advertising agencies and others. There are also many others who benefit economically from lengthy and expensive campaigns, although not at the expense of the candidates campaign checkbook. These include media pundits and commentators. Political campaigns are big business and in America we strongly support big business.

Take no comfort in knowing that as you read this, plans are being hatched among both Republicans and Democrats for those first visits to Iowa and New Hampshire as the cycle begins for the 2016 presidential elections. It’s going to be another long four years.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Emile Allais died two weeks ago. No individual who has lived in Idaho ever had a greater impact on his sport, although a close runner up would have to be Dick Fosbury, a long-time Ketchum contractor. Fosbury won the gold medal for the high jump in the 1968 Olympics. His revolutionary backward dive over the bar became known as the Fosbury Flop and is now used by virtually all of the world’s high jumpers.

There have been other athletes who have lived in Idaho at some time or another who have had major accomplishments in their chosen sports, but none with a major influence on their sports as great as Allais and Fosbury. Keep in mind that being great and having influence are two different
things.

Dan O’Brien, a University of Idaho track star, won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1996 Olympics and was called, at the time, the world’s greatest athlete. But he has had no apparent lasting impact on the way decathletes compete in their sport.

Two other greats were Betty Ellis from Clarkston and Barbara Peturka from Orofino who, fifty years ago, dominated the world of women’s log burling with a series of world championships.

One of the greatest rodeo stars with Idaho connections was Jackson Sundown, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, who won the all-around cowboy title at the 1916 Pendleton Roundup when he was 53 years old. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, wrote a novel based on Sundown’s 1916 Pendleton Roundup appearance titled The Last Go ‘Round. He died in 1923 and is buried at the Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur.

Two other rodeo competitors who come to mind are Dean Oliver of Nampa and Bonnie McCarrol of Boise. Oliver won eight world championships in calf roping and three times was world champion all-around cowboy. McCarrol was one of the outstanding women rodeo riders back in the day when women were allowed to compete in bareback and saddle bronc riding and bulldogging. She died at the 1929 Pendleton Roundup when a horse fell on her and that was the end of women competing in bronc riding. Sadly, it could probably be said that McCarrol had the ultimate impact on her sport, since her death led to its being banned from rodeo competition.

Another great Idaho horse rider was Caldwell’s Gary Stevens. He started his career as a jockey at Boise’s Les Bois Park and went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes three times and the Preakness once. His mounts have collected over $221 million with 4,888 winners.

Walter Johnson pitched for the Weiser Kids during the 1906-07 seasons, where he was said to have pitched 84 consecutive scoreless innings in one stretch. He left Weiser and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals (later the Senators) and became one of the first five
players inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Major League Baseball All-Time Team.

And, of course, there was Harmon Killebrew of Payette. When he retired from major league baseball he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs and is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Picabo Street, Christin Cooper and Gretchen Frasier, all from the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, all were Olympic medalists and, at various times, the best in their fields. Which brings me back to Emile Allais. I say he had greater impact on a sport than anyone else who has lived in Idaho.

You say you’ve never heard of him. I’m not surprised. He was 100 years old when he died on October 17 and his major impact on his sport was well before most of those reading this column were even born.

Emile Allais taught skiing at Sun Valley in 1948 and 1949. In the 1937 world championships he had won gold medals in the downhill, slalom and combined. In 1937 and 1938, he was the world’s all-around champion skier. But those accomplishments themselves don’t qualify him for having a great impact on his sport. But how he won them does.

Skiers of that era generally used the stem turn on downhill runs. Allais thought there was a better way to make turns and he perfected the parallel ski turn, which he had learned from a friend, Anton Seelos. It was a revolutionary change in skiing technique and soon skiers from all over the world were copying Allais. Allais was only in Idaho a couple of years, but he made parallel skiing the standard for Sun Valley and the rest of the world.

Allais was an accomplished skier by the time he turned eight in 1920. When he was 90, Allais collided with a snowboarder and broke his shoulder. But he recovered and continued skiing into his late 90s. Upon hearing of his death another skiing legend, John-Claude Killy, proclaimed that the father of modern skiing had died. And, for a couple of years, the father of modern skiing was an Idahoan.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Today we’re adding a new column by Martin Peterson, co-author of the Idaho 100: The People Who Most Influenced the Gem State. He has decades of experience (more than could even be summarized here) in Idaho politics, government and social history. Welcome!

Fifty years ago, in October 1962, I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, attending a communications school. Ft. Sill was home to the U.S. Army’s Artillery and Missile School. I was the ranking enlisted person in our class and, as such, was in charge of my platoon. On the afternoon of October 22 I was instructed to have my platoon gather in our unit’s dayroom that evening to watch a televised speech by President Kennedy. The purpose of the speech was to inform the nation that the Soviet Union had installed intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States.

We were then notified that the entire U.S. military had been placed on a DEFCON 3 alert. DEFCON stands for defense readiness condition and the highest level of alert is DEFCON 1. By way of example, after the September 11, 2001attacks, the military was placed on a DEFCON 3 alert.

The next morning, we moved out into the field to participate in maneuvers with other Ft. Sill units. We ended up encamped near an Honest John missile unit. The Honest John was the country’s first U.S. nuclear surface-to-surface missile. That morning, the Strategic Air Command was placed on a DEFCON 2 alert, the only time our country has ever faced that level of alert.

Usually you will hear a lot of rumors floating around a military unit at a time like this. But not this time. Everyone seemed to know that this was a matter between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev. And there was also a general awareness that the U.S. and Russia were remarkably close to going to war. Not a comfortable feeling sitting in a tent in Oklahoma in the midst of the Army’s primary missile training facility.

Following around-the-clock intense negotiations, on October 28, after a pledge by President Kennedy that the U.S. would not invade Cuba if the missiles were withdrawn, Khrushchev announced that they were pulling their missiles from Cuba. On October 29, all returned to normal at Ft. Sill.

Fast forward to February 13, 2007. I am at one of my favorite locations in the world. Sitting on the outdoor plaza of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba, with a glass of Havana Club rum and a Montecristo No. 2 cigar, looking out over Havana Bay with a Cuban musical combo playing background music. I had done this before on previous trips to Cuba and it is always a highlight of the trip. It is also a long ways away, both geographically and time wise, from sitting in a tent at Ft. Sill Oklahoma. But maybe not so far away as it would seem.

The grounds of the Hotel Nacional slope down to a spectacular view of Havana Bay and the Malecon, the highway that runs along the bay. If you had been standing there on February 15, 1898, you would have had a grandstand seat to watch the sinking of the battleship Maine.

On previous visits I had noticed a door leading underground and some rock lined trenches on the hotel’s grounds. I assumed it had something to do with the infrastructure that supports the hotel and its grounds.

This time I found myself talking to an elderly Cuban man who spoke pretty good English. I asked him about the doorway and the trenches. He asked if I would like a tour. As we walked toward the door, he told me that he had served in the Cuban Army in 1962 and, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, known as the October Crisis in Cuba, he was assigned to a surface-to-air missile unit. During the crisis they had dug the trenches on the hotel grounds and placed a missile installation in them to protect Havana from any U.S. air attack.

Opening the door revealed a stairway connecting to the trenches. We went down the stairway and he took me on a tour of the entire missile complex, which had been abandoned many years earlier. It turned out to be a complete underground military complex, even if it was somewhat primitive by even 1962 standards. It was an incredible step back into the past for me. Now I was experiencing first-hand what the Cubans had experienced while I was on DEFCON 3 alert at Ft. Sill. The similarities were remarkable. The Cubans had been just as convinced that the U.S. was preparing to attack them as we had been convinced of the potential of a Soviet missile attack from their Cuban installations and they were prepared to defend their country at all costs.

Fortunately, not only for the U.S., Cuba and the Soviets, but for the entire world, calm heads and diplomacy finally prevailed and all sides came out ahead. But for seven days in October, 1962, both sides sat on the brink of what might well have become World War III. It is an anniversary that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Marty Peterson is an Idaho native. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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